RSU 29 Superintendent Richard Lyons (second from right) and other school board members wear masks at a March 4 school board meeting. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

FORT KENT, Maine — Aroostook County ranks first in the nation for the number of COVID-19 cases per capita, according to data compiled by the New York Times.

COVID cases in Aroostook County have risen by 141 percent throughout the past two weeks. The County is averaging 67 cases per day, 99 cases per 100,000 members of the population. Aroostook has a population of 67,055.

Although the number of COVID cases had dipped in Maine earlier this year, they began to rise again in April. Penobscot County is fourth highest in the last 14 days at a rate of 76.7 cases per 10,000 people, topped by Cumberland at 81.18 and Kennebec at 83.47. Aroostook is the latest county to surge ahead to the top spot at 133.81 cases per 10,000 people.

Only counties in the U.S. territories of Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have more per capita COVID-19 cases than Aroostook, according to a table published by New York Times, which compiled the data from state and local health agencies, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and the U.S Census Bureau.

Maine as a whole, with an average of 752 cases per day, ranks second behind Rhode Island as the state with the most coronavirus cases per capita.

Maine’s daily hospital rate has also risen dramatically in the past 14 days, with a daily average of 211 people hospitalized with the virus, according to the Maine CDC. In Aroostook, hospitalizations have risen more than five-fold over the past 14 days, to 11 per 100,000.

Both University of Maine at Fort Kent, located at the top of Aroostook County and University of Maine at Presque Isle about 60 miles south, required proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result in order to attend commencement ceremonies Saturday.

A few days before the ceremonies, university officials at both campuses implemented a mask requirement for the events, due to the rising number of cases in northern Maine.

Many Aroostook County public schools continue to allow for optional masking among staff and students.

The majority of Aroostook County residents — 69 percent — have been fully vaccinated against the virus compared with 80 percent throughout Maine.

Maine has reported more than 250,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, and 2,327 Mainers have died from the virus.